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Radio host's achievements recognized

Richmond's Andy Walsh has the voice of God. So said Neil Gallagher, former radio program manager at CFUN, CHQM FM and AM.

Richmond's Andy Walsh has the voice of God.

So said Neil Gallagher, former radio program manager at CFUN, CHQM FM and AM.

"Andy is a great newsman but he probably has the best voice you'll ever hear," added Gallagher, who was Walsh's boss back in the early 90s.

The Canadian News Hall of Fame certainly thinks so.

The longtime Richmondite is being honoured, alongside veteran CTV news anchor Lloyd Robertson, during a gala banquet in March 2012 in Toronto.

Walsh, 79, was dumbfounded to learn he'd been inducted in the News Hall of Fame. Founded back in 1965 by the Toronto Press Club, it honours men and women who have made a significant contribution to journalism in Canada.

"I was completely surprised, thrilled and humbled," said the man with the golden voice. "When I think of all the incredibly talented news people in radio and television across the country, I think, 'Why me?'"

"The man with the voice" has interviewed renowned marine explorer Jacques Cousteau and has shared the stage with both Pope John Paul 11 (1984) and Mother Teresa (1988.).

Walsh said his voice quivered when he broke the news to his listeners of U.S. President John F. Kennedy's assassination on Nov. 22, 1963.

In 2004, the seasoned newscaster was awarded a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Radio Television News Directors Association of Canada. He began in radio six decades ago.

He was born Andrew Woloshen on Jan. 13, 1932 in Montreal. At 17, Walsh left high school to pursue a career at an advertising company in his hometown.

"For two years, I apprenticed in a competitive advertising company," he said, when he sat down with the News earlier this week. "While there, I had the opportunity to meet radio and television personalities, and they used to talk about the business."

He became smitten with the idea of becoming a broadcaster.

In the fall of 1951, the 19-year-old heard about an opening in a small 50-watt radio station, CKSF, out of Cornwall, Ontario. (Now CJSS.)

"I sent a tape of my voice and within days I was asked to come for an interview," he said.

A newlywed of one year, he moved himself and his young bride, Bea Woloshen, to Ontario. His pay was $25 a week.

In those days radio broadcasters did everything - from anchoring the news to DJing, to selling advertising and reporting.

"I also did a western music show and I called myself Andy Panhandle Walsh," he laughed with that great strong voice of his. "It was such a fun time. "Most of us learned on the job."

It was also there that the news director told him his name was too difficult for radio - Woloshen legally became Andy Walsh. "When I started in the business, families owned radio stations and so you built close relationships with your boss," Walsh said.

Walsh went from CJIC in Sault Ste Marie, Ont. to CFRA in Ottawa before he was offered a position at Montreal's number one station, CJAD, in 1954.

"I wanted to do strictly news and I ended up staying at CJAD for 15 years," he said.

During those 15 years, he and his wife had six children, but his busy sixdays-a-week schedule took its toll on his family life. So once again, Walsh started leafing through the Want Ads for a radio station, which could offer him a five-day a week job.

After his wife spotted an ad in the newspaper for a Vancouver news announcer, Walsh recorded a five-minute newscast and rushed the demo tape to Morris Foisy, the manager at CHQM.

"I had come to Vancouver a couple of years earlier to promote Montreal's Expo 1967 and loved it," he said.

"When that ad appeared two years later, I had to apply. I was offered the job right away."

Six months after joining the company, he became news director.

At 79, Walsh doesn't show any signs of slowing down. He still works at CKWX News 1130 (15 years now), on the weekends and fills in when anchors are on holidays. He also does voiceover work - you might recognize him in Telus' recorded message "The number you have called is not in service."

"I'm blessed to be in a job I love," he said. "I enjoy what I do so much I don't want to retire."

mhopkins@richmond-news.com